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Talking with John and Chelon Rasmussen is an uplifting experience. John recently drew a cartoon especially for the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study and it was during this time that Chelon and John shared their stories with Morris Animal Foundation.

John has been drawing since he was a child, Chelon told us. He was born hearing impaired but wasn't diagnosed until he was 5 or 6 years old. Both of his parents were battling serious health issues. His dad had heart disease and his mom had breast and ovarian cancer; they died a month apart when John was 12 years old. He began drawing in 1991 because he was lonely.

“It lifted his spirits (and still does) to brighten people’s lives,” Chelon says. “When John’s mom passed away, she wrote a note to his brothers and him letting them know she knew they would use their talents to make the world a better place for people. That note still inspires him to this day.”

John had cochlear implant surgery in 2001, which allowed him to hear new sounds for the first time, including those of his then baby daughter, but the surgery also impaired his vision and balance and prevented him from drawing. John finally resumed cartooning last year and created the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study cartoon, which is available for sale. The Rasmussens’ dog, Chief, is participating in the study.

“The dogs and cats do funny things,” Chelon says, “which inspires him a great deal. He finds humor in everyday life.”

Chelon is also inspired by animals. She was founder and president of K-9 Rescue Inc., a nonprofit pet rescue and placement organization that rescued and successfully placed more than 3,000 dogs and cats over a period of nine years. Dogs and cats, including many Golden Retrievers, have been part of the Rasmussens’ relationship from the beginning.

When they met in 1999, John had two dogs: a Golden Retriever named Molly and a Golden Retriever/Labrador mix named Cassie, whose nickname was “Gassy Cassie”. John brought his dogs to Chelon’s house to visit while they were on a date, and when they returned they discovered that Cassie had found a bag of flour, dragged it downstairs and chewed it open. There was a trail of flour leading down the stairs to the living room, where the rest of the bag was all over the carpet. Cassie had flour on her face and legs. John got the Shop-Vac, determined to clean it up quickly. While he was frantically working, “I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the flour was shooting out the back of the vacuum! Finally, I tapped his shoulder and told him to look around. There was a flour fog in the house and flour all over every surface...on the picture frames on the wall, on the sofa, on the chairs, everywhere!!! At the time, he wasn’t too thrilled, but to this day we laugh about it and fondly remember Gassy Cassie and the flour incident.”

Over the years, John and Chelon have lost numerous dogs to cancer, and John himself is a cancer survivor.

“John’s own cancer and that of his mom and our other relatives and friends inspired us to participate in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study,” Chelon says. “He has had 28 surgeries and survived cancer and he still manages to find humor in life and share his gift with others. He is a kind-hearted man.”

Morris Animal Foundation is proud to be associated with John and Chelon Rasmussen, two individuals who have worked to improve the well-being of animals in their home state of Minnesota. It was second nature for them to contribute to the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, as participants and by donating a cartoon for sale.

The cartoon depicts a grandpa Golden Retriever reading to five of his grand-puppies about Golden Heroes. The puppies are asking for the story about the Hero Dogs who helped fight cancer. John has signed and numbered 275 8×10 glossy prints of this cartoon to raise funds for the study. Nearly 100 prints are still available at $25 each.

If you would like to purchase one or more of the prints, please email Valerie Robson for ordering information.

To learn more about Morris Animal Foundation and our other programs please visit morrisanimalfoundation.org.